Shares of Ross Stores Inc. slipped after hours on Tuesday, after the bargain retail chain offered up full-year and first-quarter forecasts that missed analysts’ expectations, as rising prices hit the chain’s lower-income consumers particularly hard.
The discount clothing and home-goods chain said it expected full-year same-store sales to be “relatively flat,” compared with FactSet forecasts for a 3% gain. It said it expected earnings per share of between $4.65 and $4.95, compared with FactSet estimates for $5.08.
“As we enter 2023, the macroeconomic and geopolitical environments remain highly uncertain,” Chief Executive Barbara Rentler said in a statement. “As a result, we believe it is prudent to remain conservative when planning our business.”
For the first quarter, management said it expected “relatively flat” same-store sales, saying that “elevated inflation” was “continuing to impact our low-to-moderate-income customer.” The company expected earnings per share of 99 cents to $1.05. Those forecasts came up short of expectations for a 3.3% same-store sales increase and earnings of $1.19 a share.
Fourth-quarter results still beat expectations. The company also increased its quarterly cash dividend by 8% to 33.5 cents a share.
Shares fell 3.3% after hours on Tuesday.
reported fourth-quarter net income of $447 million, or $1.31 a share, compared with $367 million, or 1.04 a share, in the same quarter last year. Revenue rose to $5.21 billion, compared with $5.02 billion in the prior-year quarter. Same-store sales rose 1%.
Analysts polled by FactSet expected Ross Stores to earn $1.24 a share, on sales of $5.16 billion. They expected a same-store sales decline of 0.4%.
Executives, during Ross Stores’ earnings call, said that customer traffic was “relatively flat compared to last year.” Demand for shoes was strong during the holidays, as consumer tastes expanded beyond athletic-centered offerings.
The bargain retailer reported earnings as its lower-income consumers feel greater pressure from rising prices, and as analysts try to assess the rate at which inflation-strained consumers overall are seeking cheaper purchases. Rising prices for groceries and gas have left shoppers with less room to buy things like clothing, leading to sweeping markdowns across stores last year as retailers tried to thin down the boxes of unsold goods stacking up in their back rooms and warehouses.
Executives at Walmart Inc.
during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call last week, said the chain was attracting higher-income consumers. Management for Target Corp.
during its earnings call on Tuesday, said they expected retailers to keep selling items at a discount in the months ahead.
Rentler, in November, said she expected “a very promotional holiday selling season and ongoing inflationary headwinds to pressure our low-to-moderate-income customers.” However, Ross Stores’ stock, at that time, launched higher, after the company hiked its profit forecast for 2022.
Broadly, retailers’ inventory levels were still “very high,” Cowen analyst John Kernan said in a research note this month. But he said that could create a wider selection of products to sell for Ross Stores and other off-price chains, which buy surplus goods from other retailers.
Shares of Ross Stores are up 21.1% over the past 12 months. The S&P 500 Index
has fallen 9% over that period.
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